Top 5 Satire War Movies

There's something slightly absurd about war - about men voluntarily engaging one another in battle; battles, in which, large numbers of them will die.  While most war movies use the platform of war to dramatize history, or to thrill with scenes of battle, a precious few directors use the platform of war to point out the inherent absurdities of armed conflict.  These are the best of them.  (For the best and worst war comedies, click here.)

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The Great Dictator (1940)


Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator was released before America's entry into the second World War when, officially, the U.S. was still at peace with Germany.  Even then though, Hitler was ripe for satire, as a dictatorial menace with a staggeringly shallow skin and a fondness for funny salutes, symbols, and a hatred for Jews.  Banned in Germany, Hitler purportedly couldn't resist watching the film anyway; chances are he wasn't amused.

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Mister Roberts (1955)

Mister Roberts is the commander of a Naval ship at the rear-end of the fleet (the end not in combat) during the second World War.  The titular commander - to the horror of his crew - epitomizes the worst of military bureaucracy by way of his puritanical need for proprietary, ceremony, and paperwork.  A perfect metaphor for everything wrong with the military!
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Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Stanley Kubrick looked at the Cold War and apparently couldn't stop laughing, and this laughter gave birth to Dr. Stangelove, a film about the military's zeal for war; despite that zeal likely resulting in thermo-nuclear war and the end of mankind as we know it.  In the film, a rogue U.S.  commander launches the American nuclear stockpile at the Soviets.  The Americans have exactly one hour to devise a solution.  A great movie filled with classic scenes.  My favorite, Peter Sellers as the American President calling the Russian premiere, "Dimitri, well, it appears we've gone and done a bad thing..."
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Catch-22 (1970)


A bomber pilot in the second World War is afraid of flying.  He's afraid of flying because the chance of his dying is high.  To get out of flying, he has to be declared crazy.  But he can't be declared crazy because he's trying to get out of flying, which is, given the circumstances, a very sane, non-crazy thing to do.  Of course, if he was crazy, then he wouldn't worry about flying.  And this, is the Catch-22.

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MASH (1971)

Ahhh, nothing says belly laughs like a mobile surgical medical hospital servicing an infantry division during the Korean War.  The surgeons in the film mentally and verbally spar with one another, eliciting one dark comment after another, all while they saw off limbs, and sew up bodies.  As the old saying goes, "If you don't laugh, you'll go crazy."
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Rico, Johnny. "Top 5 Satire War Movies." ThoughtCo, Dec. 3, 2015, Rico, Johnny. (2015, December 3). Top 5 Satire War Movies. Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "Top 5 Satire War Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).